Last year, my dad wrote a great post about how to get sharp photos of birds in flight. Since then, I’ve occasionally tried to photograph a hawk in flight, but never really dedicated a whole lot of time to it, so I was never able to get a sharp photo.
Well, a few weeks ago I went out to photograph bald eagles with my dad, and I came back with my first acceptably sharp photo of a bird in flight, yay! 🙂
So, I’d like to share what I think are the two biggest reasons I finally got a decent shot:
#1 – Carefully move your camera with the bird
You’ll get the sharpest photo possible when the bird is not moving across your camera’s focal plane (sensor), so the key is to carefully track the bird with your camera.
For most of the two hours my dad and I were outside photographing eagles, we were really just watching them. Only occasionally did they come close enough to photograph, so the majority of the time we just watched. And, I think that really helped me track them when they did get close enough to photograph, because watching them helped me get a feel for their speed.
If you’re having trouble tracking the bird in your camera, try going out sometimes where you only watch the birds, and don’t even bring your camera. Just watch.
#2 – Fill the frame as much as possible
Ideally, you’d want the bird to take up the whole frame, but you probably won’t be that lucky very often. I’ve found that you need to fill at least 20% of the frame to get a decently sharp shot. And, you don’t necessarily need a super long lens to do that (I used a 400mm lens in the shot above), you just need patience. In the two hours that my dad and I were watching and photographing the bald eagles, only about four or five times did one fly close enough for us to fill up a good amount of the frame.
Yeah, other things helped too…
Of course, there were other things that helped me get a sharp photo too, like a fast shutter speed, a high burst rate camera (I used a 50D with 6.3 fps, and a 7D with 8 fps), but I think the two things above are what really helped the most.
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.